When it comes to cholesterol, doctors are sure of two things: High levels of the bad kind increase the risk of heart disease, and lowering those levels reduces the risk. So traditional treatments are aimed at cutting bad cholesterol through diet, exercise and drugs called statins.
Now cardiologists are trying to harness the power of good cholesterol to help stave off heart disease. Clinical trials of drugs designed to boost good cholesterol are underway. Meanwhile, scientists are learning more about how it contributes to health: A new study suggests it's not just the total amount of good cholesterol that matters, but how efficiently it's able to gobble up bad cholesterol.
"We're getting very excited about good cholesterol," says Dr. Christopher P. Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "That may become the next big thing."